Self-care is a term that has become massively popular in the past several years, partly in response to the increasing amounts of clinical anxiety and depression that people are becoming more aware of. It can mean many things, since every individual is different, but it’s important to note that self-care is essential to personal well-being. If you don’t take care of yourself, your wellness will suffer, and you may find it challenging to stay physically and mentally healthy. Here’s what you need to know about self-care and how it can help you improve every aspect of your health.
What is Self-Care?
Self-care is paying attention to your own needs and taking care of them so you can live a happy, healthy, productive life. This is not to say that self-care will bring an end to the challenges of life, but it will certainly help you prepare for and recover from them.
Self-care usually involves taking time for yourself or listening to your body’s needs. It can also mean doing things that may seem like common sense to other people, but that you often forget about or neglect. Some self-care activities have actually been proven to have lasting healthy effects on the body. Some of these activities include:
- Drinking plenty of water, especially when doing strenuous physical activities
- Exercising for a set amount of time daily (tip: find a form of movement that you actually enjoy doing and stick with it)
- Creating a healthy sleep routine so you consistently feel well-rested
- Taking daily quiet time to read a book, journal, draw, listen to music or a podcast, meditate, stretch, pray, practice gratitude, or do any other form of artistic or mindful practice
- Being aware of situations that are unhealthy for you and learning to avoid them or deal with them constructively (because not every situation is avoidable or should be avoided).
- Eating a healthy, balanced meal, or eating something that brings you joy
- Remembering to take medicine or nutritional supplements
- Seeing a counselor or mentor or attending a support group
Some other examples of self-care activities include:
- Taking a daily shower or a weekly bubble bath, and enjoying the feeling of warm water and scented bath products
- Getting a massage or manicure/pedicure
- Engaging in a healthy, stimulating conversation with a good friend or family member
- Drinking a warm cup of tea or coffee
- Enjoying a favorite game or other form of entertainment
How Self-Care Affects Your Health
We live in a busy world that often demands much of our time for work and social/community activities. It can be hard to know when and how to slow down. Our bodies are not designed to go, go, go, which is why stress, anxiety, and depression have become so prevalent in our world. All three of these things, especially when combined, can spell bad news for your overall health in the long term, leading to chronic health conditions or the neglect of personal hygiene, activity, or nutrition. Our bodies need to be continually nourished in many ways, from physical activity to food to healthy thought processes, in order to work as they should. Neglecting to make time for these things that help us stay well can lead to challenging situations, especially for those who already struggle with chronic health conditions.
Self-care can have numerous holistic benefits for your health. Some of these include:
Mental: When you take time to slow down and relax with a self-care activity, your brain will trigger a relaxation response that will release chemicals to help you heal and feel mentally well or at peace. While having a regular mental health break won’t necessarily result in any immediate effects on your physical health, your mental health is intimately connected to your physical health. Taking time for your mental health will help you physically in the long run.
Emotional: Often, barriers to your personal well-being come from emotions that you have not properly processed or dealt with. When you’re not emotionally healthy, you’re less likely to make positive decisions and more likely to engage in risky or unhealthy behaviors. Sometimes it takes years to overcome trauma and emotional setbacks, but taking the time to process and reflect can lead you along a path to a healthier emotional state of being.
Physical: A lot of self-care practices are physical, such as exercising, eating balanced meals, and doing skincare routines. These activities often result in positive physical changes that you can feel and see, which can be encouraging for your overall health. In addition, just as mental health affects physical health in the long run, taking care of yourself physically will also help you become more mentally healthy.
Self-care requires finding a balance between your regular life activities and your self-care activities. A common misconception about self-care is that it’s the same as self-indulgence or selfishness. While indulging yourself once in a while can be healthy, there is a difference between these concepts. Self-care is taking the time to make sure you’re healthy, while self-indulgence may mean allowing your personal needs or desires to routinely cause you to shirk responsibilities or duties. Again, though, self-care will look different for every person, and it’s up to you, potentially with a partner or trusted friend, to figure out what that healthy balance looks like.
How to Incorporate Self-Care
Incorporating self-care into your lifestyle is similar in many ways to picking up a new hobby or setting a new goal. You can take a few different steps to start out:
- Start small and work up—give yourself time to adjust
- Set a goal or develop a routine to gradually reach
- Keep track of your progress and regularly reflect on how the routine has changed you or made you feel
- Add or subtract routines as necessary
Some self-care activities may only last for a short period of time, especially if you find that they don’t work for you. That’s okay. It’s important to remember that your journey is not like anyone else’s, and comparison is often a gateway to other mental and physical challenges that you need not face.
If you need help figuring out the best ways to take care of yourself, we’re happy to help guide you along the right path. Schedule an appointment with us today to begin your self-care journey!